If we want to see fundamental changes in Rwandan football, there must be a systematic effort to invest profoundly in youth and junior leagues, which as a result, would lead to increase in terms of number of players and competitiveness.
This has to begin as a directive from the Ministry of Sports and Culture (Minispoc) to the Rwandan football governing body, FERWAFA that plans, organizes and executes the strategies on behalf of all Rwandans.
However, the question is do we have a national policy on football, and if it does exist, what is it all about?
Having a national policy in place means the government is closely monitoring the progress of football at all levels. But I think the biggest problem is that most of the people in Rwandan football leadership positions just go into it without drive of promoting the game, but rather as a way to make money.
FERWAFA have failed to invest in youth football, and as a result Rwanda no longer competes at the U17, U20 and U23 levels. This is after the country had made good start in 2009, which resulted in qualifying for the 2011 U17 FIFA World Cup in Mexico. The biggest mistake we made was not to build on that success.
There is a big challenge of flip flopping when dealing with young talents in Rwanda. There should be football academies where young players get the chance to play regularly in youth competitions.
Also, the government must make it compulsory for each school to have sports grounds, specifically football. Villages should have football grounds where young people meet and play football for leisure.
There is no shortcut to having national teams, at all levels that can take Rwanda to big tournaments in Africa and beyond and if youth leagues are not producing new players.
Take an example of cycling, which is doing well and recognized globally because the people running that sport have seen the fruits of investing money and time in young Rwandan riders.
In football, the government has been behind the game but corporate sponsors have failed to turn up because they are not sure if they will get returns on what they invest, and to make it even worse FERWAFA are doing nothing to make the situation better.
Football is big sport, which needs big brains to run it, big preparations and someone, who can guide Rwanda to be among the top 10 Africa—but this can only be achieved starting with having a strong foundation by investing heavily in youth development programmes.
Football pays, and if we take it seriously it means we are creating a source of employment for so many Rwandans, especially the youth both boys and girls.
Football is a business where people need to think out of the box.
FIFA provides about $1.2 million each year to all its member associations for football development but in Rwanda, we don’t see what this money has done for the last four years and still counting.
Over the years, there have been serious issues in world football starting with FIFA, then CAF and to some extent FERWAFA. There is a new leadership in FIFA and in CAF which is a good thing in both cases and the same thing should be done FERWAFA.
As far as leadership is concerned, FERWAFA has some gaps like transparency issues in administration; lack of confidence in the current federation leadership by Rwandans.
For things to change and change for the better there is need to have serious and committed people in charge of FERWAFA—people with a vision to develop the local game from the grassroots all the way to professionalize the sport and attract private sector money.
Football is the most popular sport in Rwanda and the one with more resources available to it but in all honesty how many people buy tickets and get excited to see a regular season game, probably not as many as we should have.
Another indicator for football fans in Rwanda is that they prefer going to drinking joints (sports bars) with nice big flat screens to watch European matches (England, Spain, etc.).
These European games attract millions of fans across the world and rarely do you see Rwandan league matches featured in these sports bars, which basically shows that our football is not selling and the sooner we addressed that issue the better or else we shall keep in the same circle forever.